Here is an excellent blog from one of our bloggers Melissa Brand. Beat your Best winner 2011, Melissa Brand has just finished the Marine Corps Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Las Vegas, Henderson Nevada, in just under a week. Melissa earned the right to participate in the championship when qualifying at an Ironman 70.3 event this year. Read this amazing blog to read all about it. Some great pictures too.
September 9th seemed to come around much sooner than expected. My preparation for the event commenced way back in autumn 2011, when I started a comprehensive strength and conditioning programme. The most important element of this was to improve the function and strength of my glutes and hamstrings which I had come to realise that I had not been fully utilising. With this base of strength I was then able to layer the other training on top.
Since last year I have focused predominantly on my running and cycling. For the same amount of training time I knew I could make up a lot more time on the run/cycle elements of the race than on the swimming. Through the winter I raced some cyclocross, ran cross country and maintained my swimming.
The early part of the race season I suffered a few setbacks with illness but managed to get a few 70.3 distance (half ironman) races under my belt. I was fortunate enough to spend nine days in Mallorca pre-Las Vegas. This was key as part of my heat acclimatisation; it is never consistently hot in the UK and therefore it is hard to acclimatise without going abroad or using a heat chamber.
I arrived in Las Vegas eight days before the race. This allowed me the maximum time available for heat acclimatisation, adjustment for the time difference and a chance to recover from the long flight. I used the time to recce the swim, bike and run courses, but also to enjoy time for rest and recovery pre-race. In the usual way, I have to try and balance these things whilst working full time.
Race day dawned and I was up at 3 :15 am to drive to the race venue. I prepared my bike in transition and then waited nervously for the swim start. The swim element of the course takes place in Lake Las Vegas and comprises a 1.9 km loop. It is a stunning setting. The water was warm which meant that it was a non-wetsuit swim. This is a disadvantage for the weaker swimmers who are usually aided by the buoyancy of wearing a wetsuit. The swim started in waves according to sex and age and my wave went off at 07:10 am. Once started my nerves disappeared and I got on with racing!
My goggles got knocked off pretty much immediately in the frantic race start, I managed to recover them and replace them on my face only to then get kicked in the nose. These might sound like worrying things but they are scenarios that you need to be mentally prepared for before entering the water.eant that it was a non-wetsuit swim. This is a disadvantage for the weaker swimmers who are usually aided by the buoyancy of wearing a wetsuit. The swim started in waves according to sex and age and my wave went off at 07:10 am. Once started my nerves disappeared and I got on with racing!
Out of the water and out onto the bike course I was in my element. I focused on overtaking everyone I could see, male or female. I worked the hills thinking that if I could work hard up them I would get a rest downhill on the other side. I made up a lot of time on the bike after my disappointing swim. The bike course takes you out of Lake Las Vegas resort and into the unforgiving desert. Far from what I have always imagined, deserts are not always flat! The bike course is hot, arid and hilly. The route took us out into the desert and back along the same route, finishing in Henderson.
Starting out on the run my legs felt great. One thing people often find when they start out in triathlon is that their legs feel like jelly after cycling hard. I felt fresh and strong. Unfortunately though the mercury was rising, and as the day progressed it got hotter and hotter. I really began to suffer after about 8/9 km. The gaps between some aid stations were relatively long and I was becoming dehydrated. I had been sick on the bike but wasn’t going to let that stop me, but it did mean that I stopped taking in any gels and energy drinks in fear of upsetting my stomach further. I know that this was likely heat and stress induced as my nutrition was all practised in advance but the heat and race intensity can play havoc with your digestive capabilities. I took on as much cola as I could, for the energy and also because it can help settle your stomach. I also drank plain water. At every aid station I poured water (sometimes not cold unfortunately) and ice (where available) over my head. This worked to an extent to keep my core temperature down. Everyone suffered in the heat and it meant that my run time was unfortunately slower than I had hoped.
Overall my time was just a little slower than last year but the conditions were definitely more demanding this year and the run course included one extra hill on each lap. So overall I placed better than last year as everyone’s times were comparatively slower.
I placed 21st in my category, which is less than I believe I am capable of, but it is a step in the right direction. I will be back for more!
A massive thank you to Team Timex and the team’s sponsors for their support pre-race and on course, also many thanks to Maxifuel for their support throughout the year.
We would like thank Melissa for providing this great blog and photos and would also like to congratulate her on her amazing achievement.
If you want to keep up to date with Melissa follow her on Twitter. Please feel free to leave a comment below 🙂